Buying Alcohol in the UAE: 8 Things you Need to Know
1) You need an alcohol license
UPDATE The rules have now changed on how you get an alcohol license. Click here for all the details.
If you want to drink at home in the UAE, you’re going to need an alcohol license. To get a Dubai liquor license you’ll need to be 21, a non-Muslim, a legal resident of the UAE who earns more than AED 3000 a month, along with a letter from your employer, a copy of your passport and visa, your work contract and a passport photo (For more information read our blog on how to get an alcohol license in Dubai). For an Abu Dhabi Alcohol license, the same goes but, you’ll also require a certificate stating what religion you are, along with an extra passport photo.
2) And it has a limit
Each license comes with an in-built spending limit that’s based on your income and designed to prevent overspending – which depending on your intake might not be the worst idea. Abu Dhabi’s is currently set at 20% of your monthly income, which if it’s not enough, probably means you have bigger things to worry about.
3) But it does come with discounts
To soften the blow, the alcohol license also gets you a whole range of discounts, depending on which alcohol retailer you purchase it through. If you get it at African + Eastern you can get 25% off your first shop there, AED 150 off your bill at Cargo in the Le Méridien Hotel and two for one drinks at the Bahri Bar at the Mina A’Salam.
4) Private Vs Public
Whilst the UAE is generally OK with expats and visitors drinking in restaurants and hotels, and your alcohol license covers you at home, drinking in public is still an absolute no-no – however, if you’ve ever lived in a town with a high density of stag and hen nights this is not necessarily a bad thing.
5) Bringing alcohol in from abroad
At the time of writing, you can bring up to 4 litres of alcohol, or 48 cans of beer (max 355 ml per can) into the UAE depending on the Emirate in question. Alternatively, you can buy it at the airport when you arrive, with duty-free liquor prices often surprisingly reasonable (*cough, cough, best Champagne and Burgundy prices in the UAE).
6) Women and Drinking
Whilst single women can apply for a license of their own, married women need a letter from their husband that permits them to do so – something that’s been known to cause the occasional smirk from a husband – although probably not when their wives are looking.
7) Breaking the Law
Punishments in the UAE for breaking the law are severe and include up to six months in jail, a fine of AED 5,000 and/or deportation.
8) But there’s good news
The range of alcohol available in the UAE, both top-end and budget-friendly, is actually very good and getting better all the time. If you’re buying alcohol in Dubai, both African + Eastern and MMI stock large selections of global brands, whilst in Abu Dhabi Grey & Mackenzie have a decent portfolio including some off-the-beaten-track wines, and certain Spinney’s grocery stores also have an alcohol section. Read this article for more info on where to buy drinks in the UAE.
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